Breaking Habits

yoga drawing

I am a creature of habit. We all are really. We find something we like and we get into a groove. For some, it’s their morning coffee. Some have a regular exercise ritual. Others find a TV show and can’t get through the week without it. For the past ten months I have gone to yoga every Thursday morning at 9:30am. I love the class. It’s a great mix of relaxation, stretch and physicality. I know what to expect and it never fails to deliver. Yoga is a fairly new thing for me and my introduction was with mixed feelings.  But I have stuck with it and now look forward to my weekly fix of ohms.

My friend and I went for a relatively long and hilly trail run yesterday and my leg muscles were screaming for a good stretch. But it was now Friday. My usual class was yesterday. What to do, what to do? I really needed to stretch. “Suck it up sister and go to a class that is different and where you don’t know the instructor”. Was that really me talking? Me. The one that doesn’t always like to venture out before analyzing all options and thinking about it for a week or two? What the hell was going on in my head. Before I knew it I was logged in and registered for the class. I wondered what it would be like. Would I like it? Would it be close to what I was used to?

The class started and I settled in and closed my eyes. Sitting cross-legged isn’t very comfortable for me. It’s just not the way I roll. The instructor was quietly taking us out of our busy morning and into a quieter place. And then we kept going. And going. Breathing and breathing and breathing. My legs started to cramp and my mind started to wander. Why is she taking so long to get going, I wondered. Just as I got to the point where I was going to unravel (literally and figuratively) she asked us to open our eyes and change position. Thank god. But then she picked up a Hoberman Sphere. It’s a child toy that starts as a small ball and expands out into bigger ball. She was using it to demonstrate how to breathe through your practice. Cool, I thought. Well for the first 30 second it was cool. Three or four minutes later I was pretty sure I had the concept down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to visualize how your lungs and rib cage expand and contract, but I wanted to move on. I was used to moving on.

Hoberman Sphere

Once we started to move things progressed slowly. I like a class that moves along at a pretty good pace. The instructor was good though and careful to show us each move and explain it. I learnt a new way to move into downward dog. All the time she reminded us to breathe and think about the ball. Oh my god, not the ball again. The class wasn’t as challenging as I am used to but I tried to remind myself that yoga is all about doing things at your own pace. I’m no expert yogi, but I enjoy pushing myself a little bit in practice and I like to end up with a feeling of not only stretching but exertion at the end of it all. I enjoy feeling me muscles work and challenging myself in new poses. I wasn’t really getting that today.

Shavasana is the best part of yoga class for me. The relaxation after the exertion. The word Shava is Sanskrit for corpse. Meaning, I get to lie on my back, like a corpse, and let all the stuff clogging up my head float away. So, as we settled in with the lights turned down I was happy to just be. I had noticed a guitar case when I came into the studio and now I heard quiet guitar music. Very cool I thought. Nice touch. But then……the instructor started to sing. Loudly. She had an amazing voice and it was a lovely French song but all I could think of was. “Hey, this is my nap time and, while your singing is lovely, it’s a tad loud.”

shavasna

Will I go back to the class I went to this morning? Probably not. I’m sure that some loved it and got exactly what they wanted out of the class. I just wasn’t one of them. I, as a creature of habit, will go back to my regular Thursday morning class. It’s what I’m used to. However, The Best Thing in Life is listening to that voice in your head and trying new things once in a while and seeing what is out there. Whether you like it or not is up to you.

Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.